by Amy Spangler
July 10, 2012
Prematurity is the leading cause of death in babies 0-4 weeks old and the second leading cause of death, after pneumonia, in children 1 month to 5 years of age.
Michelle Gershberg and Bill Trott in an article for Reuters report explain that premature births rates have doubled since 1995 from 3 to 6 percent. According to the Born Too Soon report compiled as part of the United Nations’ Every Woman Every Child initiative, 15 million of the 135 million babies born worldwide in 2010 were premature (less than 37 weeks gestation) and 1.1 million of those babies died. Many of those who do survive face a lifetime of physical and mental challenges.
“Not only is preterm birth not rare, but it’s common and it kills,” says Dr. Christopher Howson, vice president for global programs at the March of Dimes and an author of the report. Preterm births account for nearly half of newborn deaths worldwide, making it the second leading cause of death in children under the age of 5.
Nearly 500,000 U.S. babies (12 per 100 live births) were born premature in 2010. In the United Kingdom (UK) the number of babies born premature was 10 per 100 live births or nearly 60,000 babies. Several factors contribute to the growing number of preterm births including older mothers (14 percent of U.S. babies are born to women 35 or older), obesity, fertility drugs (resulting in multiple births), induced labor, and cesarean birth.
Keeping every baby in the womb for 40 weeks is the best prevention strategy. But for those babies born premature, improving health outcomes is paramount. Although breast milk feeding and skin-to-skin care (kangaroo care) have been shown to prevent infection and promote development in premature and sick babies, rates of both among sick and premature babies remain low, prompting the UK to launch Small Wonders National Change Program. At the heart of program is the Small Wonders DVD, a series of videos that follow 14 families on their journey from birth and beyond. Small Wonders aims to improve health outcomes by increasing rates of breast milk feeding and skin-to-skin contact in premature babies.
The Small Wonders DVD, produced by Best Beginnings, contains 12 videos. Each video is divided into chapters, so parents can easily locate information.
Best Beginnings, a registered UK charity, worked closely with over 200 families and professionals to produce and pilot the films. The project has been endorsed by 23 organizations, including UNICEF and RCPCH (Royal Colleges of Paediatric and Child Health). It is the first DVD of its kind to document the experience of real parents of premature and sick babies.
Small Wonders DVD
The DVD was introduced to hospital staff in April 2012. Since then 63,234 copies have been distributed to 114 UK hospitals. Working collaboratively to effect change, Best Beginnings has recruited over 400 Small Wonders Champions in hospitals across the UK. Out of the 170 hospitals in England with neonatal units, 155 have identified Champions. Best Beginnings is working to expand the program throughout the UK. Whether expansion efforts extend ‘across the pond’ remains to be seen. More information about the project can be found here.
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